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18 March, 2023


Barkley Marathon 2023 finisher - John Kelly

John Kelly has just become the third ever runner to complete the Barkley Marathons on more than one occasion.

John Kelly barkley marathons

Barkley Marathons

The Barkley Marathon was created by Gary 'Lazarus Lake' Cantrell and Karl Henn.

Participants in the event must negotiate the most extreme of terrains and climates, with accumulated ascents of over 50,000 feet. 35 'lucky' runners are able to start the event each year with each entrant having to submit an essay explaining why they should make up one of the 25. Event more obscurely, the entry fee is $1.60 and successful entrants are sent a 'letter of condolence.

The Barkley Marathons 2023 has just come to a conclusion with a record 3 runners completing the race - Frenchman Aurelian Sanchez, USA representative John Kelly, and Belgian runner Karel Sabbe. Another record was set by Jasmin Paris who became the first ever female runner to start the fourth loop, unfortunately the wait goes on for the first woman to complete the Barkely Marathons, but an incredible effort nonetheless.

British runner, Damian Hall, was flying the flag for the UK. He was looking strong until his fortunes turned whilst tackling loop 4, where he returned to camp without retrieving any of the pages. Again , another incredible effort by the Englishman. 

John Kelly, speaker at The National Running Show in 2020, was the last successful runner at the Barkley Marathons when he completed the 5 treacherous loops in 2017. By finishing second in this years iteration, he becomes only the second ever runner to complete the Barkley Marathons, following on from Jared Campbell (2012, 2014 & 2016) and Brett Maune (2011 & 2012).

Runners have a total of 60 hours to complete the 5 loops of approximately 20 miles, taking the responsibility on themselves to stay hydration, manage nutrition and take rests between loops. John completed the course with just under an hour and twenty minutes to spare. Finishing times:

Aurelian Sanchez // 58 hours 23 minutes 12 seconds
John Kelly // 58 hours 42 minutes 23 seconds
Karel Sabbe // 59 hours 53 minutes 33 seconds

A massive congratulations to all three runners who are part of the record setting finish, and especially to Karel Sabbe who completed the Barkely by the skin of his teeth with six and a half minutes to spare - incredible!

It is thought the final loop was made even more difficult for Aurelian, John and Karel by the fact that a rambler picked up the final books which the runners are instructed to collected pages from. Not a hurdle you want to be faced with when you are 50 hours into one of the hardest ultra marathons on the planet. 

Despite this obstacle, all three runners came home to touch the infamous yellow gate. Meaning Lazarus Lake's famous Barkley Marathons has now been completed 21 times by 17 runners since its inception in 1986.

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John Kelly 

Having never raced further than a 10k in 2013, John Kelly became only the 15th finisher of the infamous Barkley Marathons in 2017. Not content with that, later that year he finished 26th amateur at the Kona Ironman World Championship, despite finishing the swim in 820th.

In 2019, John moved to the UK with his eyes set on completing all three of the British rounds in one go, cycling between them.

You can watch the amazing documentary of this challenge bellow.


After completing the Barkley Marathons in 2017, legendary ultra-runner John Kelly asked himself ‘What do I do now?’ Join John on a discovery of what he can achieve as he enters his ‘Goldilocks Zone’ with his self-devised Grand Round challenge. This film is the first Run Show Original Film. Subscribe now for future alerts.

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